We have all heard that processed foods are bad for you, but what exactly are processed foods, and what makes them so bad? Did you know that most foods need some degree of processing, and that some processed foods may actually be good for you!
According to the Mayo clinic, “processed food are any raw agricultural commodities that have been washed, cleaned, milled, cut, chopped, heated, pasteurized, blanched, cooked, canned, frozen, dried, dehydrated, mixed or packaged — anything done to them that alters their natural state. This may include adding preservatives, flavors, nutrients and other food additives, or substances approved for use in food products, such as salt, sugars and fats.”
As a consumer, it is important to note the level of processing, for example:
– Minimally processed foods such as berries and nuts may have been washed, sorted, cleaned and packaged for transportation and convenience. This processing can help lock in their nutrition and quality.
Moderately processed foods may have had preservatives, flavoring or sugar added to them to help enhance their taste. Peanut butter is a good example, usually sugar is added to the product to make it more appealing to our taste buds, but comes at the cost of unwanted calories.
Ultra processed foods look vastly different from their raw ingredients. In fact they are sometimes referred to as ‘cosmetic foods’. These foods are usually chemically altered, and contain refined ingredients and artificial substances with little nutritional value. These foods usually have chemical flavoring agents, colors and sweeteners added to them. These are the foods that you want to try to avoid; examples include:
frozen or ready meals
baked goods, including pizza, cakes, and pastries
processed cheese products
crackers and chips
candy and ice cream
instant noodles and soups
reconstituted meats, such as sausages, nuggets, fish fingers, and processed meat
sodas and other sweetened drinks
Next time when you are shopping for groceries, keep the following list in mind on some of the characteristics of highly processed foods:
Contain less dietary fiber or vitamins
Contain high levels of sugar, which may be labeled as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose or hidden in an obscure name on the packaging, examples are which can be found here.
Artificial ingredients such as coloring, flavoring or preservatives
Refined carbohydratges, which can cause sugar levels to spike in the blood and increase the chances of type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats are often found in highly processed foods, which can increase inflammation in the body and raise levels of ‘bad-cholesterol’.
Consider substituting your next frozen pizza dinner to something less processed and more healthy!
We wish you the best of health!